Local Government Minister Grant Shapps has set the wheels in motion to give councils the freedom to make their areas more bike-friendly and offer safe routes for cyclists.
Cycling is fast becoming a national obsession - Great Britain's cycling team shone at the Beijing Olympics with 14 medals and are looking to repeat their success at London's 2012 Games, while more and more people are getting on their bikes for an exercising and eco-friendly commute to work.
But all too often their routes are diverted onto busy roads and highways, by outdated byelaws that restrict access to parks, promenades and other public spaces.
Red tape puts the brakes on efforts to remove byelaws, as councils are required to first seek permission from Government Ministers.
So Mr Shapps has confirmed that he will give the green light for councils to revoke any byelaws they no longer want or need without any Whitehall interference - helping to move their plans to support cyclists up a gear.
He argued that councils know their areas best and will therefore know how best to maintain their local public spaces so they are safe and accessible not just to cyclists but to all sections of the community - and that they should be free to make the necessary measures to cut red tape without first having to seek Whitehall's permission. But as part of the Government's aim to avoid creating additional bureaucracy, Ministers will put in place checks and balances to ensure any new byelaws put forward by councils do not impose unnecessary or excessive burdens.
With these new powers planned, the Minister called on communities to get on their bikes and follow the lead already set by councils across the country that have already amended their byelaws to open up new cycle routes. These include:
- Canterbury, where the local council made changes to byelaws relating to the local promenade around Herne Bay to allow completion of part of the National Cycle Network
- Worthing, where the council updated byelaws governing the promenade so cyclists could use that rather than risk travelling along a busy main road
- Harrogate, where next month changes to byelaws will come into force allowing cyclists to use designated routes across the Stray, an open piece of land in the town centre.
Grant Shapps said:
"This Bank Holiday, and over the course of the next week, thousands of budding Chris Hoys and Victoria Pendletons will be getting on their bikes and making the most of the half term holidays.
"I want to make sure they can cycle in safety and where appropriate use the local parks, promenades and public spaces but all too often unnecessary, unwanted and outdated byelaws instead force them onto nearby busy roads.
"This Government has already been taking the stabilisers off councils and trusting them to do what's right for their area - and now, I am giving them the freedom to revoke whatever byelaws they need to in order to crank up their efforts and make their local areas safer for cyclists."